This post includes Father Callan’s summary of 2:6-3:4, followed by the notes on today’s epistle reading.
Why St Paul Did Not Teach Loftier Doctrines To The Corinthians 2:6-3:4.
In the previous section (1:17b-2:5) St Paul explained why he used simple language among the Corinthians, and not the loftiness of speech which they so much admired in Apollo; it was because simple diction was proper to the preaching of the Gospel. In the present section he will explain his reason for avoiding also loftiness of doctrine in his discourse to them. It would be a serious error, however, on their part to conclude that the Gospel contains only simple teachings. On the contrary, it embodies a wisdom that is above human powers to grasp (2:6-12), and which, having been revealed to the Apostles by the Holy Ghost, is announced only to the perfect (2:13-16). If these sublime doctrines have been withheld from the faithful of Corinth, it is because the faithful are not yet sufficiently developed to receive them (3:1-4).
2:6 How be it we speak wisdom among the perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, neither of the princes of this world that come to nought;
this verse shows that St Paul did not preach to all Christians as he did to the Corinthians. The Faithful, in fact, were divided into two classes: (a) those who were yet “sensual,” “carnal,” who were in “need of milk, and not of strong meat” (2:14; 3:1-2; Heb 5:12); and (b) those who were “perfect,” i.e., they “who by custom have their senses exercised to the discerning of good and evil” (Heb 5:14), who are not deceived by “cunning craftiness” (Eph 4:14), but who have arrived at the age of maturity in the Christian life, and, being spiritual, are capable of strong food (1:13; 3:2). The latter are able to receive a profound knowledge of Christian mysteries, while the former cannot bear more than an elementary instruction. The distinction is the same as the difference between a class in theology and a catechism class.
Wisdom means the higher teaching of Christian mysteries, such as is found in the Epistle to the Romans and to the Hebrews. This wisdom is not of this world, i.e., it is not the product of human reason, its object is not the things of this world, neither is it sought after or possessed by the princes of this world, i.e., by the philosophers, by the worldly Jewish scribes, or the like. The wisdom of this world is perishable like its authors; it comes to nought.
Other authorities interpret “princes of this world” as meaning the devils, who are “the spirits of wickedness, the rulers of the world of this darkness” (Eph 6:12; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 2 Cor 4:4). Doubtless the two explanations come to the same thing, since mere human teachers were devoid of spiritual insight into Christian mysteries, and were often in their false doctrines only instruments of evil spirits. Hence “princes of this world” embraces both the devils and their wicked human agents.
2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in mystery, a wisdom which is hidden, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory.
The Apostle now considers the positive character of the Gospel message.
We speak, i.e., the Apostles preached the perfect divine doctrines-a wisdom that came not from this world, but from God. It is the wisdom of God because it proceeds from God and treats of God; and in a mystery, i.e., it consists of doctrines so exalted that the human mind, unaided by divine revelation, could never attain the knowledge of them. It is hidden, i.e., even after revelation the mysteries of this divine wisdom remain abscure to us, and can be held only by faith.
Which God ordained, etc. The mysteries revealed in the Gospel and preached by the Apostles, such as the fall of man, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the mystery of the Redemption through the cross of Christ, man’s eternal destiny, and the like, were decreed from everlasting in the counsels of God, and intended for the eternal glory of all the faithful (Cornely). This glory the faithful, through the practice of virtue, experience to some extent even in this world; but it will be fully revealed only in the world to come when we shall see God as He is, face to face.
2:8 Which (Vulg. quam) none of the princes of this world knew; for if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.
2:9 But, as it si written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.
Which (Vulg., quam) must be referred to the “wisdom” which the Apostles explained to the perfect (vs 6). We must understand princes of this world here also as we did in verse 6. The wicked Jewish and Roman rulers and leaders who instigated and procured the crucifixion of Christ were the human instruments and agents of the evil spirits; the death of our Lord can rightly be ascribed to both. While the demons could have known that Christ was the Messiah and the Son of God, yet they were not aware of the fact that His death would mean the end of their own despotic rule over men, and the exaltation of the human race to the highest glory (Cornely). Had the devils, like the vicious human agents, been at all well disposed, they would have known that Christ was God. The numerous miracles performed by our Lord throughout His public life, of which the demons were witnesses, were of themselves sufficient to convince any well disposed mind. In fact it would seem from many passages of the Gospels that the devils did recognize, or at least strongly suspected Christ to be the Son of God (Mtt 8:29; Mk 5:7; Mt 2:11; 3:17; Jn 1:29ff). “The evil one did not persuade the Jews to crucify Christ because he thought He was not the Son of God, but because he did not forsee that His death would mean his ruin” (St Thomas). However, if for want of proper disposition or other cause the devils were ignorant of the high mysteries or purpose of our Lord’s life and death, how much more so were their human agents!
Christ is called the Lord of glory because, as God, He is the author and source of the glory prepared for us hereafter (Col 3:4; Heb 2:10). This phrase is a proof of the Divinity of our Lord.
2:9 The Apostle now proves by a quotation from the ancient Scriptures that the exalted wisdom preached by him and the Apostles had before never been known to men, devils, or angels.
The words, as it is written, show that the passage is cited as a proof of what has been said.
Because this quotation, which St Jerome proves is here freely cited by the Apostle from Isaiah 64:4, is not found in the same identical words in any extant book of Scripture, some Protestants, after Origen, have thought that St Paul was quoting from an apocryphal work, the Apocalypse of Elias; others, like St Chrysostom and Theodoret, believe the reference is to some lost book of Holy Writ. There can be little doubt, however, that we have here a free rendering of Isaiah 64:4; the Apostle is putting into clearer words the sense of the Prophet. The meaning is that a supernatural knowledge of God which through the Gospel preaching, was revealed to the “perfect” (verse 6) was before revelation unknown to all created beings. Even yet a clearer and satisfying grasp of the mysteries of faith is reserved for heaven, for the beatific vision.
For them that love him, i.e., for those who hear the teachings of the Gospel and practice them. God gives the first grace gratuitously, and we thereafter, by cooperating with the graces we receive, can attain to eternal delights.
2:10 But to us God hath revealed them, by his Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Although this deep wisdom of the Gospel was hidden from the great and wise ones of earth and from all men, nevertheless the Apostles can make it known, because to them God has manifested it through His Holy Spirit.
But to us, i.e., to the Apostles, the preachers of the Gospel.
God hath revealed them, i.e., the high mysteries of faith.
By his Spirit, i.e., through the Holy Ghost, by whom the Apostles were inspired.
The Spirit could make known these truths because He searcheth all things, etc., i.e., He understands all mysteries. Since the Holy Ghost knows the deep secrets of God, it follows that He must be God Himself. This verse, therefore, and the following verse afford a proof of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and also of His distinction from the Father. If He were in every way identical with the Father, He could not be said to search out the deep things of God.